Posts Tagged ‘Ted Williams’

Stability

September 4, 2017

Johnny Bench, Reds

Over at one of my favorite blogs, The Hall of Miller and Eric, they are running a “Mount Rushmore” of each team. As you might expect that means they are picking four players to represent the best of each franchise. But there is a kicker there. The player must have played his entire career with the same team. That means no Warren Spahn at the Braves, no Duke Snider with the Dodgers, no Yogi Berra with the Yanks (he had nine at bats with the Mets).

Now all that, especially the loss of Snider and Dazzy Vance with the Dodgers, got me to looking for players who spent their entire career with one team. Now it had to be significant time with the team, after all Moonlight Graham spent his entire Major League career with one team. I figured it would be loaded with old-time players, players who were faced with the reserve clause. Surprisingly, there were a lot of modern guys on the list. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of just a few of the players who never changed teams.

First base: Lou Gehrig, Jeff Bagwell, Willie Stargell

Second Base: Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson (he was traded but never played for a second team, opting to retire instead), Craig Biggio

Shortstop: Cal Ripken, Luke Appling, PeeWee Reese, Phil Rizzuto

Third Base: Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, George Brett, Mike Schmidt

Outfield: Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski

Catcher: Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella

Left-Handed Pitchers: Whitey Ford, Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax

Right-Handed Pitchers: Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Mariano Rivera

Not a bad lot, right?

One quick note. Honus Wagner came up with the Louisville Colonels and ended up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not quite the same as being traded or leaving via free agency. Barney Dreyfuss owned both teams and when the National League contracted he moved all his good players to Pittsburgh and let Louisville go. I’m not sure how to deal with that, so I left him off. You might differ.

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The Best Team Never to Win (What went wrong?)

February 2, 2017
Fenway Park

Fenway Park

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time detailing the players and the one playoff game that composed the three-year period that was the 1948-1950 Boston Red Sox. They finished second twice (’48 and ’49) then slipped to third in 1950. Look over the roster (including the manager) and you can’t help but wonder why they never took a pennant. This is a musing on some of the things that went wrong for the team.

The easiest, and most obvious, answer to what went wrong is that the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians were formidable teams also. New York won both the pennant and the World Series in 1949 and repeated again in 1950. Consider some of the names on the Yankees roster: Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Johnny Mize, Allie Reynolds, and in 1950 Whitey Ford. Earlier in 1948 it was Cleveland that took both the pennant and the World Series title. And now consider some of the names on the Indians roster: Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Joe Gordon, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Ken Keltner. In ’48 the Red Sox had a winning record against every team except one (they were 14-8 against the Yanks): Cleveland. They finished the season 11-11 against Cleveland, then lost the one game playoff described below. For what it’s worth, Cleveland had a winning record against everyone except Boston and New York (10-12), but did better against the second division teams. In both 1949 and 1950 the Red Sox couldn’t beat the Yankees. In 1949 they finished one game back of New York but went 9-13 in head-to-head games. They also had a losing season against Cleveland (8-14). New York, on the other hand had a winning record against every team except Detroit, a team they played .500 ball against (11-11). In 1950 both Cleveland and New York handled the Red Sox, and this time Detroit joined the crowd with a 12-10 record against Boston.

In 1950 there was another problem in Boston. Ted Williams was hurt for much of the season (an elbow) and his replacement, Clyde Vollmer, was OK, but he wasn’t Ted Williams. The Bosox slipped to third in 1950.

Additionally, a look at the team statistics shows that the Red Sox pitching wasn’t all that great. Although the hitting consistently finished in the top two or three in most categories the hurlers tended to finish just slightly lower (3 to 4 in an 8 team league). It’s not that an individual pitcher, like a Mel Parnell, wasn’t good, but the overall quality of the staff didn’t hold up to Cleveland (Bob Feller and Bob Lemon) or to the Yanks. In 1949 Parnell finished second on the team (to Williams–who else?) in WAR and in 1950 he actually led the team (remember Williams was hurt). But the staff had a bad habit of putting a lot of men on base and too many of those men scored. In all three years an inordinate number of pitchers allowed more hits than they had innings pitched and walked more men than they struck out. Those aren’t recipes for winning pennants (especially if Cleveland has guys like Feller and Lemon).

It’s tough not to like this team. It was a genuinely terrific team, but at the same time you almost can’t help but feel sorry for it. It should have won more and it’s kind of a shame it didn’t.

The Best Team Never to Win (1948 playoff)

January 31, 2017
Vern Stephens (Boston) and Lou Boudreau (Cleveland) at Fenway Park 1948

Vern Stephens (Boston) and Lou Boudreau (Cleveland) at Fenway Park 1948

If the 1948-50 Boston Red Sox were the best team to never win a pennant, the 1948 team came close. At the end of the regular season, they emerged tied for first with the Cleveland Indians. At the time, each league had its own rules about breaking end of season ties. The National League ran a best of three series to determine a pennant winner. The American League had a one game winner-take-all playoff to determine their pennant winner. The AL was founded in 1901. Prior to 1948 there had never been a tie, so the 1948 game was a first in league history. The game was played 4 October in Fenway Park, Boston.

The pennant race came down to the final day so neither team was able to start their ace. Boston manager Joe Mc Carthy sent 8-7 Denny Galehouse to the mound, while Cleveland player-manager Lou Boudreau countered with 19 game winner Gene Bearden. Bearden in particular was working on short rest. Here’s a look at the starting lineups:

Cleveland: Dale Mitchell (lf), Allie Clark (1b), Lou Boudreau (SS and Hall of Fame), Joe Gordon (2b, and Hall of Fame), Ken Keltner (3b), Larry Doby (cf and Hall of Fame), Bob Kennedy (rf), Jim Hegan (c), Bearden.

Boston: Dom DiMaggio (cf), Johnny Pesky (3b), Ted Williams (lf and Hall of Fame), Vern Stephens (SS), Bobby Doerr (2b and Hall of Fame), Stan Spence (rf), Billy Goodman (1b), Birdie Tebbetts (c), Galehouse.

Things began with a bang. With two outs, Boudreau caught up with a Galehouse pitch and drove it over the fences for a 1-0 Cleveland lead. That lasted exactly two outs. With an out, Pesky doubled, then, following another out, came home on a Stephens single to left. Then the pitchers settled down. Over the next two innings, Galehouse walked one and gave up a single while striking out one. Bearden walked two, one of which was erased on a double play, while giving up no hits.

Then came the top of the fourth. Consecutive singles by Boudreau and Gordon brought up Keltner. He blasted a three run homer that sent Galehouse to the showers and brought in reliever Ellis Kinder who managed to get out of the inning without further damage. Bearden sailed through the fourth, then Boudreau hit his second homer, this one off Kinder, to make the score 6-1 half way through the game.

After an uneventful bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth, Boston struck, again with two outs. With a single out, Williams reached base on an error by Gordon and scored ahead of Doerr when the latter connected with a home run. A Spence strikeout ended the inning with the score 6-3.

It stayed that way into the eighth when Cleveland picked up an unearned run on an error. They tacked on another when a double play with the bases loaded allowed an eighth run. With the score 8-3, Bearden returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth. A grounder back to the pitcher made Doer the first out. Bearden then walked pinch hitter Billy Hitchcock. Goodman struck out for the second out of the inning. Then Tebbetts grounded to third baseman Keltner, who tossed to first for the final out and Cleveland was champ 8-3.

Boudreau was great (he won the MVP that year), going four for four with three runs scored, two RBIs and two homers. Keltner had provided another homer, this one worth three runs. Doby also managed a couple of hits, both doubles. Bearden threw a complete game giving up one earned run (the first one) while striking out six. He gave up five hits and five walks, but only three men scored.

For the Red Sox, Doerr had a homer and two of the RBIs (Stephens got the other). No one had more than one hit and Pesky had the only extra base hit (a double) other than Doerr’s home run. Galehouse gave up five hits and four runs over three-plus innings, while walking one and striking out another one. Kinder also gave up four runs (three earned) over six innings while giving up eight hits, striking out two and walking three.

Cleveland would go on to win the World Series that year; their last to date. Boston would have two more tries at the ring. As this series of posts has pointed out, they never grasped it. Next time some thoughts on why they failed.

 

 

 

The Best Team Never to Win

January 24, 2017
Marse Joe while with the Yanks

Marse Joe while with the Yanks

The Cubs have, over the last 60 years, been historically bad. Most years they weren’t in contention by the end of the first couple of days and went downhill from there. But there are a lot of other teams that didn’t win much, so I decided to look for what I considered the best team that never won.

Let me take a minute to define my terms. I’m looking for the team that was good, really good, but never won a pennant. As we move toward the modern era we get more teams making the postseason, so I decided that teams making a playoff could count, but they weren’t allowed to win even one round during the postseason. I did not sit down and laboriously go through stat after stat trying to find the team with the most runs, or the highest team WAR, or WHIP. I looked primarily at overall record and I decided that teams that were good, but unsuccessful, over a period of years were more what I was looking for than some one year wonder of a team. A team like the 1988 Mets didn’t win, but with essentially the same team, they’d won the World Series in 1986, so they weren’t eligible for this project. Several teams made the initial couple of cuts, but I found myself coming back over and over to a team that was very, very good, had an MVP performance, a Hall of Fame manager and a couple of Hall of Famers and still just couldn’t quite get over the top: the 1948-1950 Boston Red Sox.

Before getting into the specifics of the team, let me give you a brief look at the people involved. The primary manager was Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy. He’d won a pennant with the Cubs in 1928 then led the Yankees through most of the 1930s and into the 1940s, when he resigned in 1946. He remained out of the dugout until 1948 when he took over Boston. He remained at the helm until June 1950 when he left managing for good. His replacement was Steve O’Neill. O’Neill managed the Detroit Tigers to the 1945 World Series championship (over McCarthy’s old team, the Cubs), then was let go after falling off by 1948. He remained with Boston through 1951.

In what’s about to follow, I want to point out the statistics I quote will not be yearly, but will note the best number in the three year run. For example if Joe Klutz has his best batting average in 1948, his best OBP in 1949, and his highest slugging percentage and OPS in 1950 then his triple slash line will look something like this (year substituted for actual number): 1948/1949/1950/1950. His home run number might be 1950 and his RBI number from 1948. I’m doing this to give you some flavor of how good the players were over a period of years rather than going through each individual yearly. On the other hand cumulative stats will be for the three-year span. Hopefully, I’ll do this well enough to make sure I distinguish which stat type is which (confused?). I think it’s more in line with the length of time involved with this team.

The infield was essentially five guys. Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr held down second for the entire period. His triple slash line (again, the best number in the three years, not necessarily from the same year) was .309/.393/.519/.891. He hit 72 total home runs, his highest RBI number was 120 (1950), and he led the American League in triples with 11 in 1950. His highest hit total was 172 and he totaled 14.1 WAR over the period. He was also generally first or second in most of the major fielding statistics. Johnny Pesky and Vern Stephens held down the left side of the infield. Pesky spent ’48 and ’49 as the primary third baseman and moved to short in ’50. Stephens obviously went the other way. His triple slash line reads .312/.437/.388/.825 (all from 1950 in this case). He totaled six home runs, his highest RBI total was 69 and he managed a high of eight stolen bases over the period. He scored 347 total runs, had 185 hits in 1949, and totaled 10.7 WAR in the three-year stretch. Although his fielding numbers aren’t as good as Doerr’s, Pesky still shows up as a very good defensive player. Stephens wasn’t exactly a bad fielder, but his primary job was to wield the lumber. His triple slash line for the period peaks at .295/.391/.539/.930 with 98 home runs. He led the AL in RBIs in both 1949 and 1950 with his 159 in 1949 being the highest number. In 1948 he also managed to lead the AL in grounding into double plays. His WAR for the period was 15.1.

The other two guys were at first. Billy Goodman did more work at first than anyone else, but he wasn’t really a first baseman. He also spent a lot of time at second, third, and in the outfield (ultimately he played more games at second than at any other position). He hit well, winning the 1950 AL batting title. His best triple slash numbers were .354/.427/.455/.882 (all from 1950, a year he played no games at first). He hit five total homers in the period, had 68 RBIs in 1950, scored 91 runs (also in 1950–obviously his career year), and managed 5.2 total WAR. His replacement at first was Walt Dropo. He didn’t play at all in 1948 and had a cup of coffee in ’49. In 1950 he took over as the everyday first baseman. He led the AL in RBIs with 144, won the AL Rookie of the Year Award, had a triple slash line of .322/.378/.583/.961, led the league in total bases with 326, and posted 2.6 WAR. He also hit 34 home runs, had 180 hits, and scored 101 runs. All those were to be career highs. For his career he would put up 3.2 WAR, 2.6 of that in 1950.

The outfield belonged to four men: Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Al Zarilla, and Stan Spence. If you’re reading this you probably have a sense of Williams. He’s one of the dozen or so greatest players ever and he was excellent in the three years around 1950. His best triple slash line for the three years reads .369/,497/.650/1,141. He hit 96 home runs in the period, won the RBI title in 1949 with a career high 159, led the AL in runs, doubles, total bases at various times during the three year run. His WAR totals 21.5. He was injured for much of 1950, or his number might have been higher. He won the MVP Award in 1949. Stan Spence, on the other hand, is fairly obscure. He played both right field and first base in 1948, then was traded seven games into 1949. In 1948 he hit .235/,368/.391/.759 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs. Zarilla was his replacement. He was with Boston in both ’49 and 1950 and had a better year in ’50. His triple slash line for 1950 is .325/.423/.493/.915. He had nine home runs both years, 145 total RBIs, had 32 doubles each year, and 4.6 total WAR. He was a decent outfielder, but is today probably most famous as the principal in the famous Dizzy Dean line “Zarilla slud into third.” Which leaves Dom DiMaggio, the center fielder. His triple slash numbers read .328/.4.14/.452/.866 (all are from 1950). He led the AL in stolen bases (15), triples (11), and runs 131) in 1950 (his best year) and put up 24 home runs, 384 runs, and 11.1 WAR over the period. His fielding stats show him as one of the best center fielders of the era.

Next time I want to look at the battery (both catchers and pitchers) as well as the bench. It’s a fine team. So I also want to look at what went wrong causing them to never reach the World Series.

 

 

 

 

 

The Catcher Question

October 27, 2016
Buck Ewing's Hall of Fame plaque

Buck Ewing’s Hall of Fame plaque

Recently somebody asked me who I thought were the greatest catchers ever. I made the appropriate reply, “Got me.” I think that rating catchers is the hardest rating job in baseball (well, maybe pitchers). The position is so different and so many factors that don’t weigh on other positions come into play that I don’t think any of us have yet come up with a definitive set of statistical information to answer that simple question.

There are a lot of reasons this is true. Let me give you one quick example: Buck Ewing. How good was he? It is evident from the information we have that he was a great, great player. But he was a great, great player in a game that was different from the modern game. Ewing’s career spans the 1880s and 1890s and for almost all the 1880s and the first part of the 1890s pitchers were restricted on how they could throw, and however they threw, they didn’t do it from a mound 60″6′ away from a home plate that was shaped differently than the modern one. Also, Ewing is a catcher. And that really does matter. “The tools of ignorance” are still evolving today and in the 1880s were in their infant stage. His glove might have kept his hand warm in winter, but wasn’t going to do much else. There was some padding, but not much. According to SABR, the catcher’s mask was an Ivy League invention of the mid 1870s and was essentially an adaption of the fencing mask. The chest protector comes in the early 1880s and is sometimes credited to Deacon White (again according to SABR). Flimsy is the operative word here. So how good was Buck Ewing at doing his fielding job? Well, the numbers show him not bad for 1880, but simply lousy for today. And part of that has to do with the equipment he’s using. And that’s a major problem with comparing catchers. The equipment today is just better.

We also have to deal with a factor of American history: segregation. By general consensus the best Negro League catchers were (alphabetically) Josh Gibson, Biz Mackey, and Louis Santop. How good were they? Again, “Got me.” I have some records available, but they are spotty and almost all of them are hitting, not fielding records. At the current stage of our knowledge we can determine that the Negro League catchers were good, but exactly how good is still a question.

And for course for catchers, fielding matters. Most people who saw both Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski play will tell you that Yaz was the better fielder. And nobody cares. If you hit like Williams no one cares if you can catch, they’ll find a place to play you (Hello, Harmon Killebrew). Greg Maddux was a superior fielding pitcher and no one ever said that about Randy Johnson. Why? Because deep down inside no one cared. Maddux was there to pitch and if he could field well then that was gravy. Johnson had less gravy but did his main job more or less as well and that’s what mattered. It doesn’t work that way with catchers (and shortstops). You have to be able to field your position and with all the work that SABR and Bill James and the various stat guys have done, fielding stats are still a work in progress, and catching stats are less far along than other positions (probably because there are so many more to consider).

Until these problems are solved answering the “greatest catcher” question is at best a crap shoot, although by now we can call it a more “educated” crap shoot than it used to be when I was a kid. I am comfortable in saying that almost all the “greatest” catchers played since World War II (with possible exceptions like Ewing, Gabby Hartnett, and the 3 Negro Leaguers I mentioned above). Beyond that I’m shooting craps with everyone else.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Dale Alexander

July 28, 2015
Dale Alexander while with Detroit

Dale Alexander while with Detroit

1. David Dale Alexander was born in Tennessee in 1903.

2. His father was a local baseball player and tobacco farmer. The son did not immediately follow in his Dad’s footsteps, but attended and graduated from Milligan College. He played baseball there and at Tusculum College in Greenville, his hometown. Frankly I’ve been unable to find out how the managed that. There is no evidence he went to Tusculum after graduating from Milligan.

3. In 1924 the Tigers picked him up and sent him to Class D baseball in his hometown.

4. He moved around a lot in the minors, staying through 1928. He won a Triple Crown for Toronto in 1928.

5. Alexander was an instant star, hitting .343 and leading the American League in hits with 215 in his rookie campaign. He ended up with 137 RBIs, a then rookie record (it was surpassed by Ted Williams).

6. In 1931 he had 47 doubles, second to Earl Webb’s record 67 (and still the record), but his home run totals dropped from 25 and 20 to three.

7. He started slowly in 1932 and ended up being traded to the Boston Red Sox (interestingly enough for Webb). It seemed to rejuvenate him and he ended up hitting .372 for Boston. His aggregate average was .367 and he won the 1932 AL batting title.

8. In August, his fourth inning single proved to be the only hit off Wes Ferrell and spoiled Ferrell’s no hit bid.

9. On 30 May 1933 Alexander was injured sliding into home. His injured leg was left too long in a new heat treatment and was badly burned. He never recovered. For his five-year career his triple slash line is .331/.394/.497/.891 with an OPS+ of 129. He hit 61 home runs (45 of them in his first two years) in 811 hits, scored 369 runs, and had 459 RBIs. His Baseball Reference.com WAR is 15.6.

10. Between 1934 and 1942 he spent time in the minor leagues both playing and managing. His leg made it impossible for him to perform at Major League level, but he did well at AA level and lower.

11. In 1949 he became a scout for the New York Giants. He remained there through the 1950s and is the scout who discovered Willie McCovey.

12. He died in 1979.

Alexander's grave (from Find a Grave website)

Alexander’s grave (from Find a Grave website)

Only the Ball Was White: A Review

February 12, 2015
Only the Ball Was White (my copy has this cover)

Only the Ball Was White (my copy has this cover)

Back when I was working on my PhD in history the big book that was causing a stir was Time on the Cross, a book that was hugely controversial and was  supposed to use new statistical methods, later called “cliometrics” (Clio was the Greek Muse of history), to revolutionize how we viewed the institution of slavery. Well, it didn’t actually end up doing that, but it did introduce “cliometrics” and statistical analysis to the study of history in a big way (try being a social historian today without it) and that changed how history was studied.

In January 1970 Robert Peterson did something like that when he published Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All Black Professional Teams, generally known by the first five words of the title. It told America about the Negro Leagues at a time when the Negro Leagues were almost entirely forgotten by the general public and by baseball fans. What little was known was more myth than reality. Peterson’s book began a trend of looking at the reality of Negro League baseball. There were stories, an historical narrative, some thoughts on individual players. All were researched in newspapers, team papers (such as were available), and interviews with surviving players and associated people. It was utterly groundbreaking in both the study of black history and baseball history.

There had been other books, like Sol White’s history, but they were old and generally ignored in 1970. Peterson, following on Ted Williams’ plea for recognition of Negro League players in his Hall of Fame address, wrote a book that tried to place black baseball in the context of its times and in the context of the larger black community. It’s worth noting the book for that reason alone. And it wasn’t stat heavy (unlike Time on the Cross) which made it more acceptable to a general audience.

It’s outdated now. Forty-five years of research will do that to a book. Some of the info turned out to be wrong, much of it is still good. It’s a fine read. It was the first book I ever read on the subject and so it continues to hold a special place in my psyche. Copies are still available (Amazon has a copy for $15.64) and it’s worth reading at least once.

As an aside, Peterson was one of the people chosen for the committee that selected the 2006 Hall of Fame members for Negro League baseball. He died a couple of weeks before the voting, but sent in a copy of his choices. The copy was accepted and he helped elect some deserving members to the Hall of Fame. I think it’s nice that did that for a pioneer who helped rescue the Negro Leagues from oblivion.

 

The Kid vs. The Man: Back at Sportsman’s Park

August 27, 2014

The 1946 World Series returned to St. Louis on Sunday, 13 October. The Cardinals need to win to force a game seven. By this point most of the questions raised when the Series began were answered. Only two significant ones were left: how would Ted Williams and Stan Musial do, and who would win.

Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

The Cardinals sent game two starter Harry Brecheen back to the mound. He’d pitched a complete game shutout in his last outing. He didn’t do quite as well this time. He gave up a run in the seventh inning when Rudy York tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bobby Doerr. By that point St. Louis was already ahead 3-0 and would win 4-1. In the third inning they’d bunched together a single, a bunt (by Brecheen), a sacrifice and three more singles to score three runs off Tex Hughson. In the bottom of the eighth Harry Walker reached first on a force out then scored on a double by Marty Marion. Both the same hit and the same inning would loom large in game seven.  For Brecheen it was his second complete game victory.

Enos Slaughter, 15 October 1946

Enos Slaughter, 15 October 1946

The final game was played 15 October 1946 with Boston sending Boo Ferriss to the mound and the Cardinals countering with Murry Dickson. The Bosox got one in the first when Wally Moses singled, went to third on another single, and scored on Dom DiMaggio’s sacrifice fly. The Cards got it back in the bottom of the second when Whitey Kurowski doubled, went to third on a groundout, and then scored on a fly to left. St. Louis took the lead in the fifth when Walker singled, went to second on a bunt, then scored on Dickson’s double. A Red Schoendienst single plated Dickson. It stayed 3-1 until the top of the eighth. Rip Russell singled and Catfish Metkovich doubled to put Russell on third. It was all for Dickson. Manager Eddie Dyer brought Brecheen, the game six winner in to stop the Boston rally. He got two outs, then DiMaggio doubled to tie the games (both runs credited to Dickson). With the score tied, St. Louis Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. Two outs later he was still parked on first and the score was still tied. That brought up Walker. He doubled off reliever Bob Klinger. Slaughter, with two outs, was off with the pitch. He rounded second, went to third, ran through a stop sign and headed home. The Red Sox fielded the ball cleanly but cutoff man Johnny Pesky hesitated just enough with the relay throw that Slaughter slid home safely with the go ahead run. The play has become famous as “Slaughter’s Mad Dash” and is still one of the more well known plays in World Series lore (and it may have been the deciding factor that got Slaughter into the Hall of Fame). In the ninth Brecheen went back to the mound. York singled as did Doerr. Doerr was erased on a force out by Pinky Higgins. Roy Partee fouled out with runners on first and third, then Ted McBride rolled a grounder to Schoendienst who flipped to Marion for the force that ended the Series. St. Louis had won both the game and Series 4-3. It was Brecheen’s third win.

Boston did well in defeat. Williams was a major disappointment hitting .200 with five hits, all singles. He had five walks, five strikeouts, and scored two runs. The big hitting star was Rudy York. He had six hits, four for extra bases (a double, a triple, and two homers). He drove in five and scored six runs. The staff did well enough with a team ERA of 2.95. They gave up 20 earned runs in 28 total runs (and if you ignore the 12-3 blowout in game four they actually gave up fewer runs than the Cards pitchers).

St. Louis had a lot of stars. Slaughter scored the big run while hitting .320. Walker had six RBIs, including the last one. Musial is frequently lambasted for a poor series (and he hit only .222), but he had six hits, five for extra bases (four doubles and a triple), scored three runs, drove in four, had four walks (and two strikeouts), and stole a base (and was immediately picked off). But the big hero was Brecheen. He had two complete games and gave up one run in them. He picked up the win in game seven in relief (although he’d given up the hit that tied the game) and became the first of only three lefties to register three wins in a World Series (Mickey Lolich and Randy Johnson are the others). He was also the second three game winner to pick up one victory in relief (Smokey Joe Wood did it in 1912 and later Johnson did it the same way in 2001). All in all not bad for a .500 pitcher in the regular season (he went 15-15).

It was a terrific World Series. It began a line of three great World Series’ (1947 and ’48 also became famous). It was also the only time both Williams and Musial met in a Series. For Williams it was his single Series. For Musial it was his last. He, at least, went out on a winning note.

 

 

The Kid vs. The Man: Fenway

August 25, 2014

With the 1946 World Series tied at one win apiece, the action moved to Fenway Park in Boston. If either team could sweep in Fenway, the Series would end. A split would send the teams back to Sportsman’s Park for at least one game. The question of using the “Williams Shift” was answered in St. Louis, but the question of how well Ted Williams and Stan Musial would do remained, as did the question of how well each pitching staff would hold up.

Rudy York

Rudy York

The Bosox sent Boo Ferriss to the mound. With two out he walked Musial who immediately stole second. Then in a bazaar pick-off play, third baseman Pinky Higgins slipped in behind Musial and Ferriss caught “The Man” flatfooted for the final out of the inning. Cardinals starter Murry Dickson managed to get an out, then a single and ground out put Johnny Pesky on second with two outs. Dickson intentionally walked Williams to bring up Rudy York. York smashed a ball to left that cleared the “green monster” for a three run home run. It turned out to be all the help Ferriss needed. He gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out two on the way to a complete game shutout. Meanwhile the Red Sox tacked on another run in the eighth to win the game 4-0 and go up 2-1 in the Series.

 

Cards catcher Joe Garagiola

Cards catcher Joe Garagiola

Game four was the only blowout in the Series. The Cards jumped on Red Sox starter Tex Hughson for six runs in three innings. An Enos Slaughter home run, a couple of singles, a sacrifice and St. Louis had three runs in the second. They added three more in the third on a single, an error, a double, and another single. Hughson didn’t get a single out in the third. The Cardinals proceeded to pile on five Boston relievers finally scoring a total of 12 runs. Catcher Joe Garagiola went four for five with two doubles and three RBIs. Shortstop Marty Marion was three for four with three RBIs. Boston managed all of three runs off St. Louis started Red Munger, only one of them earned. Two came on a home run by second baseman Bobby Doerr. Now with four games played, the Series was tied 2-2, making the championship a best two of three with St. Louis having two home games.

 

Joe Dobson

Joe Dobson

Game five was played on a Friday, 11 October. It was one of the best games of the Series. The Sox got three hits and a run off St. Louis starter Howie Pollet. It was enough for manager Eddie Dyer and out went Pollet and in came reliever Al Brazle. Boston starter Joe Dobson gave back an unearned run in the top of the second, but Boston went ahead in the bottom of the second on two singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt. The score stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the sixth when Leon Culberson launched a home run to put the Red Sox up 3-1. In the seventh a tiring Brazle gave up a double to Dom DiMaggio, then intentionally walked York. Higgins drove in DiMaggio then after another intentional walk, Roy Partee hit a double play ball to Marty Marion, who proceeded to throw it away allowing both York and Higgins to score. Then with two outs in the ninth, an error plated two final runs for the Cards giving Boston a 6-3 win. Dobson pitched well, striking out eight, walking only one, and allowing four hits. All three St. Louis runs were unearned.

With the Series set to return to St. Louis with the Red Sox up 3-2 the question of how well the pitching staffs would hold up was pretty well answered. Other than the Boston meltdown in game four both staffs had done their job. The Cards had given up 14 runs, and Boston only 20 (12 of those in game four). So far neither Williams nor Musial were doing much.

The Kid vs. The Man: the Opening Games

August 22, 2014

The 1946 World Series began in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on Sunday, 6 October. There were a number of questions that hung over the Series. How would Ted Williams do? How would Stan Musial do? Was either pitching staff up to the task? Would St. Louis employ the “Williams Shift”? The Shift was designed to defend against Williams’ tendency to pull the ball to right field. The shortstop (in this case Marty Marion) would move to the first base side of second while the third baseman (in this case Whitey Kurowski) would assume Marion’s normal shortstop position. As long as second and third base were unoccupied it gave the defense a distinct advantage versus the best hitter in the American League. The short answer was “Yes,” the Cardinals would use the Shift.

Rudy York

Rudy York

Game 1

For the opening game, the Cards sent Howie Pollet to the mound. He pitched reasonably well, giving up three hits and striking out another three. He did, however, give up four walks, two to Williams. The Red Sox picked up a run in the second when Pollet hit Rudy York with a pitch. York went to second on a walk, and came home on a single by Pinky Higgins. The Cards got the run back off Boston starter Tex Hughson when Red Schoendienst singled then scored on a Musial double. In the bottom of the eighth, they got another run when Kurowski singled and catcher Joe Garagiola doubled to plate Kurowski. Pollet needed three outs to clinch game one. With one out Higgins singled and was replaced on base by Don Gutteridge. A Rip Russell single sent Gutteridge to third. With two outs, right fielder Tom McBride singled to score Gutteridge and tie up the game. It went 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, York homered off Pollet and reliever Earl Johnson set down St. Louis without a run to pick up the win and put Boston ahead.

Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

Game 2

The second game of the Series was held the next day. It was a pitching masterpiece for Cards starter Harry Brecheen. He pitched a complete game shutout allowing four hits, three walks, and struck out four. He allowed a first inning single, then got out of the inning on a double play. In the second he walked two (one intentionally) but got out of it with three harmless groundouts. In the fourth it was a walk and a single that put two men on, but again a groundout ended the threat. After that he never allowed two men on in any inning. Meanwhile, St. Louis got a run in the third when catcher Del Rice doubled and Brecheen singled to score Rice. They tacked on two more in the fifth when Rice and Brecheen scored on a single by Terry Moore and groundout by Musial (Brecheen could hit a little too.). Both runs were unearned. Losing pitcher Mickey Harris went seven innings, gave up six hits, walked three, struck out three and gave up all three runs.

After game two the Series shifted to Boston with the teams tied at one win each. How were the questions being answered? So far Williams was one for seven with two walks and a strikeout. Musial was one for nine (a double) with two RBIs and a strikeout. Both pitching staffs had done well. St. Louis had given up three runs, one in extra innings, and Boston had given up five, only three of which were earned.